Shea’s engougement (“irrational fondness”) for dictionaries led him to spend a year reading through all 20 volumes of the Oxford English Dictionary, and he describes this account as “the thinking man’s Cliff Notes to the greatest dictionary in the world.” For each letter of the alphabet he provides a handful of his favorite words and his own humorous glosses, along with musings on the history of the OED, dictionaries in general, and his reading life. (He does most of his OED reading at the Hunter College Library and finds himself turning into one of those “Library People” as the year goes by.) He shares a number of words that, though they have fallen out of the common vocabulary, could be put to excellent use today: empleomania: “a manic compulsion to hold public office”; zabernism: “a misuse of military authority.” The book will happify (“make happy”) word and dictionary lovers, who will be able to read it in an hour or two, much less time than it takes to read the OED. --Mary Ellen Quinn
"Oddly inspiring...Shea has walked the wildwood of our gnarled, ancient speech and returned singing incomprehensible sounds in a language that turns out to be our own."
--This text refers to the
-Nicholson Baker, New York Times Book Review
"Delicious...a lively lexicon."
-O, The Oprah Magazine
-William Safire, The New York Times Magazine